«Design is not all about work, it’s about the approach to solving life problems.»
Interview with Misha Nekrasov

''Design is not all about work, it’s about the approach to solving life problems''. Interview with Misha Nekrasov

Misha Nekrasov, a graduate of the Communication Design profile in Saint Petersburg, already during his studies managed to work with such brands as BMW, MINI, and the Saint Petersburg motorcycle center. Now Misha works at the Creative Mind Bureau branding agency. In the interview, he told us about his creative and professional path, the principles of working with clients and gave some advice to young designers.

What role has the HSE Art & Design School played in your career? What useful skills have you acquired and what do you remember the most?

During my studies at the School of Design, I did acquire many practical skills, useful acquaintances and knowledge, which later helped me to realize myself as a designer. I learned to see what is hidden from the eyes of others: usually this approach is called the design thinking (or creative problem solving).

This basic skill helps me not only in my profession, but also in other spheres of life. I often give this example to explain the design thinking: if I build a house, then I lay the bricks in my own way and with my own vision of beauty. if f I cook, I think about how to make the dish better and what creative elements I can possibly contribute to it. For me, design is not all about work, it’s about the approach to solving life problems.

Most of all, during my studies, I remember the first years, the first projects within the walls of the School, student exhibitions, attending the workshops of Saint Petersburg famous artists in a truly creative atmosphere. I remember as if it was yesterday: summer is coming, my friends and I are heading towards the art practice with Yura Shtapakov in his studio in the center of Saint Petersburg on the top floor of a rare city building.

The main challenge in this career path is to keep up with the times, understand trends and be able to combine them with the styles you already know.

What is the profession of a communication designer today? How do you perceive it and what do you consider most difficult in this career path? How did you come to be a designer? How did it all start and how did you end up at the School of Design?

In my opinion, at the moment there is a tangible revolution in the visual language of graphic design because young people are entering this field, making their contribution and new approaches to solving certain design problems. The main difficulty is to keep up with the times, understand trends and be able to combine them with the styles you already know.

I have been into drawing since the early childhood and I have also been interested in art since I remember myself. At the same time, I always appreciated music, fine arts, and approached my school lessons the following way: if the notebook for my studies turned out to be not visually pleasing enough in handwriting and color (I singled out each topic with a separate color and symbols), then I reluctantly delved into the subject of this lesson.

After school, I was sure that I wanted to be a designer and enter graphic design. My father told me about the opening of the School of Design in Saint Petersburg and I decided to apply. I had to pass the entrance exams, so I went to the Moscow campus for preparatory courses to develop my project, which then was rated 7 (which is B or 4 on a five-point scale). Devastated and disappointed with my work, I went back to Saint Petersburg and gave it another chance. In a week, I finalized and improved the same project, took into account all the weak spots of the previous version and passed the creative competition with more than 90 points.

During the first year of studies I was curated by Andrey Lyublinsky who laid the foundations of my design thinking. It was a pleasure to work with Andrey. He shared lots of life stories that always contained some kind of lesson and message that helped me in my work.

Speed and drive — something that is flash and sharp. Something that would make fast objects — or letters — become even faster. This effect was achieved through the sharp diagonal lines.

MC 38 is a public space that promotes motorcycle culture and unites people passionate for it. Misha developed the branding referring to the element of chain and created the unique navigation system that included unusual objects and constructions.

In his visual study, Misha researched the history of automobile concepts and demonstrated how designers and engineers perceived the future in different periods of the 20th and 21st centuries. While exploring the evolution of shapes, he shared his own vision of new generations in automobile technology.

During a week-long promo campaign, MINI Cooper and the sub-brand SELF presented a number of limited car mats with portraits of MINI’s customers.

How did you start your career path? What should a graduate designer be prepared for in the real world of briefs and clients?

My father instilled in me a love for everything sporty and extreme, including motorcycles and cars. At first, I did some small paid projects for him. After some time, when I already had quite a few cases in my portfolio, other clients started to reach out.

I combined my studies and freelancing in small projects. I did an internship at the Type Type studio where I was taught to notice the little things in details and strive for perfectly clean and verified work. Back in the first year we had an exhibition of posters, which was, in fact, the first design exhibition where three of my works were presented. Then I participated in many different exhibitions organized by the School of Design. For instance, Typomania in Moscow. I am thankful to the School and Mitya Kharshak for this opportunity.

While interacting with real clients, you need to be prepared for the fact that the world of commercial design is very harsh. You might have to be more patient and sometimes do things that are not outstanding from your perspective. Also, there is always the component of competition because you will definitely be meeting your classmates out there, do not even doubt it, and therefore you need to be able to find a compromise with everyone and always remain on friendly terms.

Visualization of an exhibition stand for BMW

Your portfolio consists of cases such as BMW, MINI, the Saint Petersburg motorcycle center, and the IMIS motorcycle exhibition. Is it necessary for a designer to have one area of ​​interest? What is the best way to build relationships with clients and brands?

When choosing a project, I try to focus on current trends and fashion in the first place, so I do not take up projects because they are related to technology or something like that. I love it but I don’t want to constantly work in one area, so I also engage in themes that are challenging for me. I believe that it is absolutely not necessary for a designer to have one area of interest. On the contrary, the wider it is, the easier it will be in further communication with clients and colleagues.

While working with clients, close contact is very important. The closer you get to know your client — what they love, their interests — the easier it will be to understand what they actually want from you, and at the same time enjoy yourself. It is always important to discuss briefs in details. If we are talking about large projects, then we can no longer do it without a proper contract.

I would single out the three main principles of working with a client:

  • Respect for the interests of the client
  • Respect for your interests
  • Ability to combine own interests with the client’s interests.

Tell us about your brightest professional experience. What kind of project was it? What did you remember about it? What did this experience give you?

The most striking and important for me was developing a corporate identity for the IMIS22 motorcycle exhibition. As it often happens with me, when I really like something, others start to like it too. This project received a great response in the circle of designers and motorcyclists of the city. It turned out very bright and recognizable work of mine.

In your free time, you create videos and take pictures. Is it a hobby or part of your professional activity?

Initially, I planned to focus on video production as a career but then realized that if I just learn how to shoot well, it will not give me any unique features and will not distinguish me among other amateurs. Therefore, I decided to focus on the creative thinking in order to bring a new look to video production through the introduction of graphic design. Video shooting has always been my hobby, which then began to bring me some money. Now I’m a little too busy with work but I really want to go back and realize some video ideas.

As I said, design can be found in everything, it all depends on how you read the word. For some people, design is a craft, for others — just a boring and even unnecessary activity. For me, design is the visual world around me and all the images that I see with my own eyes.

Tell us where do you work and what are you currently working on. Do you run any parallel projects? How important is it to be flexible in your activities? Can you work from anywhere in the world? Is offline participation important?

Currently I work at the Creative Mind Bureau studio. There is a very busy schedule. Now I have learned to work in a fast-paced environment because projects change almost daily. In fact, in the competitive world of design, speed is very important. Not everyone can make a corporate identity in two days. It is also simply necessary to be able to work on several projects at the same time. Switching between projects helps to support the fresh vision. Now I’m running about five large projects at the same time and I can calmly organize the schedule in my head.

I prefer to work offline because personal contact with colleagues and clients helps to understand what is required of you. But I think I could work from anywhere in the world, it just wouldn’t be as much fun!

Zine about the Outsider Music label and its creators
Zine about the Outsider Music label and its creators

Give advice to the applicants of the School of Design and those who consider taking the path of a designer. Where to start, what to be prepared for, how to cope with fears and find your style?

First of all, you need to understand whether you really want to do it and whether it will be interesting for you to study. You need to understand and accept your weaknesses and work to improve in those weak areas. You need to be interdisciplinary. Do you study to be a designer? But no one prevents you from studying, for example, music! Any related areas immediately raise you to a higher level.

Train every day.
Practice is very important, especially during the first steps.

Strive for the best.
No one forbids looking for your unattainable ideal.

Relax on weekends!
I believe that weekends were invented in order to turn off your brain, so then, rested physically and mentally, you can return to a new week of exciting projects and events.

Never give up.
Geniuses also have hard times. The main thing is not to give up and bring it to the end.

Have a Purpose.
Having a clear goal helps you to cut out anything that is redundant and focus only on things that are truly important to you.

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